By Tami Charles
Deadlines. Writer’s block. Admin duties. We all know the drill. This “writing life” ain’t easy, nor is it glamorous!
Take me. Exhibit A. As a full-time writer, I wake up daily at around 4 a.m. to work. Half-awake. Foggy-brained. Keurig revved up. It’s my best time to get things done because the house is blissfully quiet.
Depending on the day and task, my writing is split into two arenas: the creative world and the “bill-paying” freelance one. Equally important, equally difficult.
On the freelance end, my work involves research, evidence-based theories and straightforward text. No fluff.
On the creative side, however, there is much to consider: characters, dialogue, setting, worlds to build. The list is never ending!
When I first decided to pursue writing as a career, I had the good fortune of finding the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and Women Who Write. These two organizations connected me with critique groups, which essentially gave me the boost I needed to jump-start my career.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, I think participating in a critique group is beneficial in many ways. Here are four critical ones:
There are many options for types of critique groups to join. There are online groups, face-to-face meetings and a hybrid of both. Whichever type of group you choose affords you the benefit of connecting with other writers, socializing and growing together in your craft.
Speaking of craft, participating in a critique group helps you greatly improve your writing. Sharing your work with members and reading their work as well allows you to pinpoint sagging plot lines, breaks in character and more. The give-and-take, along with the honest feedback, is a win for all involved.
There’s nothing like having other people waiting on your submission and feedback to get your butt in the chair. The pressure alone is enough to get you reading their work and fixing up your own. In this case, pressure can be a good thing!
I cannot stress this benefit enough! I joined my first face-to-face critique group in 2009, remained active until 2014 and then transitioned to strictly online thereafter. Over the years, I’ve met writers from all walks of life. Each one has come with their own set of unique experiences. I appreciated their willingness to share advice and contacts related to elevating our collective writing career goals. For example, one fellow writer-friend provided me with freelance writing resources, which landed my first writing gig. (Thank you, Laura!) Two others researched and helped me plan ways to meet Vanessa Williams, the subject of my debut novel, Like Vanessa. Meeting Ms. Williams was a dream come true! I was able to give her a copy of my novel, which she read, and later gave a glowing endorsement for the cover.
Had I not met the wonderful writers in my critique group (Special shout-out to Christine and Lynda!), I honestly believe none of this would’ve happened.
I believe 100 percent in the power of networking, but most importantly, in the necessity of critique groups. What begins as a businesslike arrangement among writers can develop into a group of friends, cheerleaders and confidants who will rally for your success, while also building their own.
Writing can be a lonely process, but it doesn’t have to be. A simple Google search will help you find the critique group that’s right for you.
Find your squad. Receive feedback with a grain of sugar.
Spread the writerly love.
I wish you luck in your search!
Tami Charles is a former teacher, wannabe chef, and debut author. She writes picture books, middle-grade, young adult and nonfiction. Her middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, debuts on March 13, 2018. Thus far, the novel has earned starred reviews from Kirkus and Foreword, been selected by the Jr. Library Guild for Spring 2018, earned a spot in the Top Ten for ABA’s Indies Introduce List, and won the SCBWI Book Launch Award, along with glowing reviews from Vanessa Williams and NYT bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia. Charles has more books forthcoming with Candlewick and Charlesbridge, including the picture book Freedom Soup debuting in Fall 2019. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find Charles online at tamiwrites.com, on Twitter @TamiWritesStuff or Instagram @tamiwrites.